Cadet Johnson Whittaker
Cadet Whittaker was a West Point Academy attendee. Whittaker was a son of a slave mother and grew up on the plantation. As he was growing up he saw the Plantation he grew up on basically destroyed by the Union Army. As time went on he was more fortunate than most of the black children in those days. He got a great education and even attended college at North Carolina. Then Whittaker was accepted by the United States Military Academy. In 1876 he arrived at West Point full of fear, and excitement. At the time of Whittakers arrival there was only one other Black Cadet attending the academy. And him and Whittaker were roommates until the other Cadet graduated from the academy. Then Whittaker went through what was called the silent treatment for the remaining four years. Whittaker could handle that much though.
One morning Whittaker was found in his room face down in a puddle of blood unconscious. His hands and feet were tied to the bed and it looked as if he had been badly beaten. And even slashed with a knife. The school doctor arrived and after a few minutes was able to revive Whittaker. They questioned the young Cadets about what had happened all of them said they didn't know. Then Whittaker brought fourth a letter he had received before the beating but did not take seriously because he had received others.
The letter read as follows:
Sunday     April 4th
Mr. Whittaker. You will
Be fixed  Better keep
A friend.
General Schofield ordered Colonel Lazelle to conduct a full investigation. Lazelle began by questioning the doctor at the scene and all of the Cadets. then Drew up what he thought had happened.
Lazelle and the Doctor agreed that if one of there Cadets did something like this it would be because of pure mischief. But all of the Cadets quickly denied having anything to do with it.
Colonel Lazelle wrote his report saying that for some unknown reason Johnson Whittaker had wrote HIMSELF the note then proceeded to beat himself up and then tie his hands and his feet to the bed. Therefore he proceeded stated that Whittaker should resign based on his deeds or ask for a Court Martial or for a court of inquiry. Only three days after this all happening Whittaker stood before a court of inquiry. Whittaker reaffirmed his story over and over again even under cross examination.
As the court proceeded Whittaker attracted the nations Newspapers.
During the courts proceeding Dozens of witnesses were called Civilians Cadets and officers. At this time since the media was so involved in the court case of Whittaker that President Ruthford B. Hayes then president of the United States became involved in it and sent his right hand man to make sure that the court proceeding taking place were fair..
Whittaker was found guilty in this court proceeding.
The man that the President went to him and told him that he did not agree with the judgment that the court had found so it went on to a court-martial proceeding. Whittaker really wanted this so he could prove that he was innocent and the other cadets wanted it so that they could prove that Whittaker was lying.
The court-martial began in New York City on January 20, 1881. Ten officers a lot of who did not attend west point were appointed to hear the case.
Whittaker went to court wearing his uniform and then pleaded Not Guilty in a firm and distinct manner.
Some of the handwriting experts said that the handwriting was in Whittakers handwrighting. The doctor that saw Whittaker testified that he thought Whittaker did tie and beat himself. However another doctor testified that he didn't see it possible for Whittaker to do that kind of thing. Some of the witnesses then testified that the ropes around Whittakers hands were tied very tightly which brought more things to Whittakers favor. For over four months the court-martial went on and finally on May 17 1881 the lawyers said there ending statements. On June 10, 1881 nearly five months to the day that the Court Martial had begun the board reached their verdict.  They found Whittaker Guilty of both mutilating himself and of perjuring himself before the court of Inquiry that had been conducted earlier at West Point. The board sentenced Whittaker to a dishonorable discharge from the military academy and to a fine of one dollar.  Before the sentence could be carried out however the case had to be reviewed by the Judge advocate General office in Washington. December of that same year DIG Swain the judge advocate took the papers to the secretary of war. In his opinion the verdict reached was wrong and should be reversed. Swain not only picked away at the case but also argued the fact that president Hayes did not have the right to order a court martial so therefore it was an illegal proceeding. The report from the Judge advocate of to the secretary of war was then passed on to the attorney general and then finally the President. James Garfield had been assinated earlier that year therefore the new President Chester Aurther received the report on March of 1882 He then overturned the court martial findings on the grounds that the court martial itself was not legal. Although he did not offer an opinion on whether he thought Whittaker was innocent or Guilty.
On the same day that Whittaker received word that his conviction was overturned he had received word that he had been formally discharged from the US Military Academy because he had failed a philosophy course taken almost two years before this. He went back to South Carolina where he finished getting his education and went on to become a Lawyer a Teacher and a school administrator. He got married had two sons which both received commissions in the United States Army and served as officers in War War 1. Johnson Whittaker died in 1931 at the age of 72.
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